Online Edition Tom Quinn finally, to the relief of all, just blows up
Something goes boom



Series 3, episode 02
Series 302
1st release (U.K.): 10/18/04
1st release (U.S.):
Production number:
Last update: 11/01/04

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Professor Fred Roberts IAN MCDIARMID
Jemma Roberts MARY NIGHY
Deputy Assistant Commissioner JAMES VAUGHAN
Malcolm Wynn-Jones HUGH SIMON

Writer Howard Brenton
Director Jonny Campbell

BBC-1, Mondays 9pm


Harry reawakens an ex-MI5 'sleeper' - but will it prove to be a costly move? BBC.co.uk

Harry reawakens sleeper agent Fred Roberts, a renowned chemist and family man. As Fred becomes more deeply involved with deadly terrorists, Tom has a crisis of conscience which could jeopardise his career. TVTome.com

After clearing his name, Tom has little enthusiasm for being a spy or his colleagues after they doubted him. While considering his future, he is sent to work with MI6 agent Adam to reawaken a sleeper (Ian McDairmid) who can help them avert a potential terrorist outrage. Meanwhile, Zoe is distracted by photographer Will (Richard Harrington). TheCustard.tv


Harry Pearce reawakens a 'sleeper': Fred Roberts, renowned chemical engineer, Nobel Prize winner and happy family man. Fred sold his soul to MI5 over twenty years ago in return for a helping hand on the career ladder.

Over the years this pact has become nothing more than a faded memory, but the time has come for Fred to repay his debt.

Harry and the team are running Operation Flytrap - they want to spread the lie that Fred has made Red Mercury, a lethal trigger for explosives, in order to attract terrorist groups. Harry approaches Fred, who is unwilling to sacrifice the happy and secure life he has made for himself. But Harry makes him an offer he can't refuse - don't co-operate and your life and reputation will be systematically ruined.

Tom, Zoe and Danny convince Fred that he has no choice. They have already dealt with his financial affairs: Fred is now in serious debt, desperate for money and would go to any lengths - including selling Red Mercury. Fred cracks and agrees. His wife, ignorant of the truth, flees the family home believing Fred is a gambling addict with debts and a vicious streak. Tom seems to be relishing forcing this man to become MI5 bait. He dismisses Harry's request to keep an eye on Fred's emotional wellbeing.

Meanwhile, Zoe has taken a liking to Will North, a photographer she catches skulking around. After he's been checked, she doesn't hold back from having a passionate fling.

Soon enough Fred is approached by a terrorist suspect. He's offering $5 million for 5 grams of Red Mercury. Fred is warned - if it turns out he has dealings with MI5, his family is dead. The team trace the man - he's a chemistry postgraduate student, Lawrence Sayle, and his connection: he's part of the Syrian Secret Service and has Al-Qaeda sensibilities.

Fred begins to fall apart under the strain. Then cracks appear in Tom - he's beginning to care about what this is doing to Fred and his family. He pleads with Harry to put Fred's family into a safe house. Harry is unmoved. The family stays where they are, but Fred is to be told they are safe. Tom's increasingly troubled by Fred's exploitation. Harry refuses to cancel Operation Flytrap and Tom takes the decision into his own hands.

The team catch up with Fred agrees to return with them. Harry is forced to de-commission Tom from the Service. His career with MI5 is over.

Back at the lab, Lawrence Sayle comes to collect his Red Mercury and falls into a sting headed by Adam Carter. Operation Flytrap has been a success and Fred is free. So is Tom, who takes one last look at Thames House before he walks away for good.


This synopsis is by Han.

302 - 'You're saying MI5 manufactured my whole career?'

I'm watching this episode with Ellie and Chris on Chris' amazing new television. Woo! This week on Spooks: parallels, parachutes* and Emperor Palpatine.

We open on a council estate, I think, with Harry looking out of a window waiting for something. Tom's hair looks a bit different again, and ooh, something's blown up woo!! A whole flat or two goes up in flames. Obviously got a bit of a budget increase this year then. First parallel: Tom all suited up, and Adam in jeans and a fleece thing. Sorry, that's not actually a parallel, is it? I'm explaining myself badly.

So we're at Queen Anne's College for someone's graduation thingy. There is a small child who will be annoying later. Harry comes over to where this guy - identified by Chris as Senator Palpatine from Star Wars, so that's what he'll be for the rest of this recap - is with his family and says he wants to talk to him.

"Hello Fred."
"In the flesh, though that flesh be older."

What Harry wants to say is that this guy - a sleeper agent - is going to be activated. Bugger for him. He says he's not interested, he didn't take it seriously, and tries to say no. To Harry? Pshaw. Harry points out that because he agreed to this ages ago, he doesn't have much of a choice. And anyway, they gave him the info that won him the Nobel Prize.

"What? You're saying MI5 manufactured my whole career?"

The young girl asks Harry if she's coming to the party. She has that 'I'm a little girl' manner/voice, which I'm not convinced real little girls actually have. At the party, Palpatine's wife refers to Harry as 'that vile man.'

Harry wants Palpatine to have created Red Mercury, which P says is scientific impossibility. Scientific exposition follows, essentially: it makes stuff explode.

Palpatine is quite sneery about the whole thing, and insulting to Harry, and someone always wants something for nothing. Sally, Michael and John come in

The bomb was set by 5 to put about the Red Mercury story. No-one actually died.

"I'd no idea lying had such a complex molecular structure."

The whole reason for this is that there had been a plutonium accident in East London, where terrorists trying to make a bomb had had an accident and fled and a kid had picked up the plutonium. Ouch.

The terrorists are having trouble making a trigger, and 5 are having trouble finding out who want it - they're off 5's radar.

Tom's all bossy, and Danny details Palpatine's 'gambling debts' which would be why he's selling RM. He's *still* resisting.

"Well we made you, we can destroy you." (parallel, although 5 isn't destroying Tom intentionally)

Just an aside: Danny has quite small hands.

The grid has THE SHINIEST back wall, ever. Not sure it was there last season, and frankly it's bloody distracting. Adam still scruffy.

"Well, you've certainly rearranged the furniture in his life."
"He lived a lie, now he's paying for it." (Parallel)

Palpatine's wife doesn't understand what's going on, and he can't explain. It's quite hard to feel sorry for him, but not for her. The phone rings, and he tells her not to answer it. It's Danny calling about the 'debts'. It's a test from Tom. Bastard, bastard, bastard.

Tom really seems to be enjoying himself, and the smile on his face is quite possibly the most worrying thing I have seen all year. It made my heart go cold. It's freaky.

Palpatine and his wife are having an argument about the non-existent debts, and Tom's trying not to look overly happy, but failing. He lies to Harry about how well Palpatine is bearing up.

"Tom, this is a vital and a dangerous operation, are you happy running it?"
"You mean, am I up to running it, after what happened with Hermann Joyce? Why wouldn't I be?"

Tom looks a little unsure, and looks over to see Ruth, who appears for the first time this ep! She gives him a worried looks, which she's been doing on and off since 205.

Palpatine watches his wife and children drive away, and there's another team trailing them. They look quite professional, and are probably related to the people who want the RM (sorry, that's totally obvious - who else would they be?).

Group meeting! Adam seems to be agreeing with Tom, but is kind of undermining (in that Tom is talking crap and Adam is not).

"No that's the trouble isn't it, these days, anyone could be anyone."
"How do you think Tom is?"
"Oh, let's not even go there. How do you think he is?"
"Sets my teeth on edge…"

Oooh, photographer!!! Zoe obviously takes a total shine to him, and he is guy who was in Hustle - the bank robber guy, think his character name was Sam - and he's quite charming and the flirting is so cute.

"Don't you want to know my name?"
"No. I'll find out your name and everything else about you."

The family are in Leeds, confused. Palpatine is in the lab, looking at a microscope. Well, through it, not at it, that would be pointless. The family's mobiles don't work, which would tell me that something funny was up, if nothing else. Palpatine gives a lecture, which Danny attends. Talking to Tom (presumably later) he manages to smash a glass.

"How do you live like this? How do you live with the fear?"
"You get to like it."
"Destroy you, though, won't it?"

Zoe is telling Harry about 'Will North' - the photographer. If I think of a good nickname, I'll let you know. Hustler? Yeah, that suits *g*. This actually informing them is a step up on last season, obviously (see 204). This scene is filmed so that Zoe's sitting in the middle of the sofa, and it makes her look very small :).

Christ, Zoe's a fast worker! Straight round to have sex with Hustler. o_O

His middle name is Regis. He asks how she knows his middle name, which seems fairly obvious to me. She's 5, she's checked you out?

Danny comes out of the lecture, and it's great. She's all leaning against the wall going 'Enjoy your lecture.' And he looks her up and down and he *so* knows! 'Yeah, it was great.'

The student is actually a messenger from the Alef (Al-hef? I don't know) Command. He really gets into lying about the RM. Oooh, intrigue and bombs woo! They want 5 grams for 5 million dollars. The guy does a sing-song 'We know where they are' which really makes me want to punch him.

They watch Palpatine come out, and he's letting papers drop and stuff, and Tom goes to talk to him, while Danny sees him and watches. Tom tells him not to track him.

"Come on, I'll take you home."
"I haven't got a home. I haven't got anywhere."

Ruth's wearing a nice velvety top. Still hasn't spoken :(.

Palpatine's getting drunk, tells Tom what the student said. He's still calling him Mike.

"People in the field, in, er, a foreign country, have to do that for years."
"I warn you Fred, that way madness lies…you have to put your real self in a box. And only when you come home, do you open up the box and say 'hello, real me.'"
"What if the box got lost?"
"You'd have to reinvent yourself."
[pause] "I think you lot are clinically insane."

AC's been very much in the background this week. Harry tells Tom to lie to Fred about his family to keep him relatively happy. Tom's conscience begins to reassert himself.

"I'm destroying a man." He says quietly, and Harry says
"Are we linked?" Tom's looking away from the camera.
"Not linked, not anymore."
"Tom, are you with us?"
"I can hear you." He says, turning back. God, I worry about him. He needs a hug.

Sam suddenly gets all shouty about having found the student - Lawrence Sale. Danny and Zoe go and see his mum, and apparently he's got a girlfriend in somewhere that I'm not even going to attempt to spell because it'll make me look stupid. It begins with K and ends with stan. Khasakstan?

Ruth gets to speak! 'Y Division' have translated the cards for them, whoever they are. AC has seen before - the Syrian SS uses postcards with stuff written in between two sheets. The Alef Command are a bit like a terrorist MI5, with their organisation and surveillance and stuff.

Student sets up the collection of the RM for the next day. We then skip to one of the big corridors the grid has purely for people to walk down and/or talk in. I've just noticed that Tom is suddenly behind Danny and Zoe, not in front like usual. Anyway, his conscience is really getting to him now, which is slightly annoying seeing as Tom is responsible for most of what he's going through.

"…the point is, we're exploiting a man here."
"Fred Roberts, or you?"
"Nothing." Oooooooooooh.

As Chris and Ellie noticed, Tom has really filled out.

"You're doing a brilliant job.' Harry says in a very persuasive voice. 'We're going to have a great success."

Tom goes and…gets a gun? Er, hello?
Chris: Is that a gun? It bloody is as well!

Tom really starts losing it. Has suddenly decided what they're doing is immoral.
"All I want to know, is are you for me or against me?" Paranoid loon.
Tom leaves, and Danny picks up the phone. Probably Thames House.

Oh no!! Tom's being totally stupid! He's decided to close the operation down, and he wants to take P to his family.

Ruth has seen this happen to someone at GCHQ, their conscience exploding as she puts it. This leads Zoe to respond

"Exploding conscience? Tom? I don't think so."

Which amuses me.

Chris: He was always going to go this way, wasn't he?

"Peeling the onion, are you? Layer after layer of lies."

Tom's being totally stupid :( Adam says that they should try and save the op. Thusly, while Tom and Palpatine are driving, a helicopter appears. This series is all about the big gestures, obviously. Zoe and Danny plead with him not to be stupid, but Fred makes his own choice.

"I'm decommissioning you, Tom."
"Ah, don't be ridiculous, Harry."
"You are no longer an officer of the service."

Tom gets all shouty, and as per usual, when he gets what he wants he realises he might not actually want it.

"Don't get caught with a gun, Tom. Not again."

Tom to Adam: "Do you understand?"
"No. Sorry." He looks like he accepts it, right there. It's over, gone.

There's a dog sniffing round one of the terrorists, so he shoots it. Student boy goes to pick up the RM, but Adam walks in on them and is all superior. Woo! The dog owner has a gun pointed at his temple but thankfully doesn't notice. Student boy refuses to play along and answer the phone, so special forces shoot them. More guns this series too.

Palpatine talks to his wife on the biggest phone I have ever seen. He tells her everything.

"I made a promise years ago. I was what they call a sleeper."
"I don't know…who you are. Why you did this to us."
"I did it for the country."
"You did it for yourself."
"Mike, or Tom. What's going to happen to him?"
"Sorry professor. That's classified."

Tom is clearing his desk. If you're the type to cry at tv programmes, you'll probably be sniffling about now. He looks at Matthew Archer's passport**. Everyone's watching him.

Zoe looks all downcast, but doesn't say anything. Ditto Danny. Harry and Tom say goodbye, and Tom asks about the op, but of course,

"Oh, you can't tell me. I'm a member of the public now."
"You are. I envy you."
"Oh, I doubt that."

"You'll get the really very generous special pension."
"Pay off, for rogue officers. Yep." Tom and Zoe smile sadly at each other, and then he walks down one of the main corridors and out onto the street.

So, that's it. No more Tom Quinn.

* Yes, I was lying about the parachutes.
** Matthew Archer, of course, was Tom's first alias in the show, an IT consultant who ate at Ellie's restaurant a lot. She thought he was just there because of her but he was observing someone.


In general, I liked it, cause I always like Spooks episodes. A weak episode of Spooks is like a *great* episode of most other shows. I felt this episode was a bit slow and they're still messing with characters and seeming to turn them around 180 in the middle of an episode. However, I must say that I liked how they got rid of Tom. (Even if it seemed rather contrived for him to start acting as he did.) It seemed very realistic. I'm glad they didn't go a typical 'big actor leaving' route and make him into some sort of hero. The morals on this show are always very gray, therefore Mister Black and White had to go. Makes sense to me.

Last week I said this show is becoming the Blackadder reunion, but this week I realized what it really is: a reunion of all the dead Imperial guys from Star Wars.

In 301 it was Michael Culver (Captain Needa from Empire Strikes Back and also a veteran of at least two other spy series) as Harry's useless friend Hugo, this week it was none other than Emperor Palpatine himself (Ian McDiarmid) masquerading as a chemistry professor!

Which leads to the inexcusable conclusion that Tom's breakdown can only be attributed to him giving in to the dark side of the Force. It was his Destiny! That, or I really, really need to back away from my downloads of the original unmolested Star Wars films before it really is too late for me. That being said though, wouldn't it be sooo cool if they got possibly the only high ranking Imperial officer to survive the destruction of the 2nd Death Star: General Veers aka Julian Glover? Seriously, he's a natural choice since he's been on practically every other cult type show ever made.

But I guess I should talk about the actual episode a little. I only watched it once a few days ago, so forgive me if a few details are off. As I was watching, I was especially struck by how slow the pacing seemed. I kind of wonder if knowing that A&E will cut out 15 minutes is affecting the way the show is written. I definitely felt like there were at least 15 minutes of padding which would certainly make chopping easier come time for the American broadcasts. Did we really need like three separate scenes establishing the lack of phone communication between the professor and his family? Did we really need quite so many scenes of the family hanging out? We're not going to see any of these people again so why are we spending so much time with them and not with the people on the Grid that we actually care about?

Another thing that didn't work for me was Harry being present when the bomb went off at the beginning of the show. Why on Earth was he there? He doesn't do mission stuff unless it's something that directly affects him like stolen briefcases or his top guy maybe being a traitor (and/or totally nuts) or activating his first sleeper agent. It seemed gratuitous in the extreme to have him there when the bomb went off since he should be even more invisible than the field agents. It couldn't have been to assure him screen time either, because he had several juicy scenes with Professor Palpatine and then with Tom at the end.

And speaking of Tom, how anti-climactic was that? Of course I knew Matthew wanted out to make movies, but why exactly was his exit resolved this way? The way the episode was set up, with him getting the gun and all, I was almost certain it was going to end in bloodshed. Either Tom would shoot himself or he would force a suicide by cop type situation by holding a gun on Harry and the gang again when they had armed back-up. This way -- I don't know. I'm not nearly as invested in Tom as I know some other viewers are, so the fact of his leaving doesn't upset me all that much because the way his character was going, what else could they do with him really? He'd pretty much hit rock bottom in terms of his personal and professional life and he either needed to get out of MI5 and/or get some major psychiatric care and in either case his role on the show would have to be significantly altered.

For all that I thought immediate set-up to his exit was a big old cheat, I have to say that once Harry actually sacked him, I could really sense Tom's relief. He acted like an enormous burden had been lifted from his shoulders and almost immediately relaxed into a demeanor he hadn't shown for ages. I'm a sucker for Tom/Harry scenes (all you slashers out there, stop snickering) so I really liked the last bit between Tom and Harry, because despite the sacking, there seemed to be genuine respect and affection between them. I also loved Tom's little wave and Harry's smile. I just wish there had been a more time to develop the reactions of the other characters -- which there would have been if some of the boring bits with the professor's family and the stupid plot of the week crap had been cut out. All we got were some looks between Zoe and Danny and Tom which I guess was ok, but pretty disappointed considering everything they'd gone through together. And getting nothing at all from the rest of the team? LAME. I went back and rewatched the last little bit, and seriously, does no one else work at Thames House? There didn't seem to be anyone else in the building except one guard.

Final bit: I officially do not care at all about New Guy. Tom was interesting because he lived in a world of gray, but tried to insist that that the world was black and white until it almost destroyed him, but so far all we know about New Guy is he is super-duper competent with a beautiful wife. Please don't let him be another example of the writers increasing laziness with complexity and please don't let him take over the show and become the central character of every episode. Please writers, prove my fears wrong and give me a nuanced character in an episode as good as one from the second half of season 1!

(And if anyone is wondering or cares, given that Matthew was leaving regardless, I'm not sure what I would have liked for his replacement in an ideal world. I'm not sure Zoe (and Danny definitely isn't) is experienced enough to take over a team so someone new would have to come in. It would have been nice though, for it to be someone other than Tom lite from MI6 of all places.)

Final final note: Personally, I find episodes 103 and 203 to be the weakest episodes of their respective seasons so my hopes are not high for next week, especially since it looks very Adam centered. Here's hoping the promo monkeys are just being misleading in the preview!


From Brian:
On a show called Harry Hill's TV Burp which is alot like E!'s Talk Soup, they made a joke about Spooks second episode of the third season.

"And on Spooks we saw the world's most sort sighted shooter" and then a clip of the 2nd episode which I'll bet will get cut from the A&E version which has a gun pointed from the bushes right at a old man's head who is trying to find his dog at the time.

This was just a quick joke on the show.


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